Airborne precautions: A set of practices used for patients known or suspected to be infected with agents transmitted person-to-person by the airborne route

Alcohol-based hand rub: A TGA-registered alcohol-containing preparation designed for reducing the number of viable microorganisms on the hands without the use or aid of running water and which is included on the ARTG as a medicinal product

Antisepsis: The use of chemical or physical methods to prevent infection by destroying or inhibiting the growth of harmful microorganisms

Antiseptic: Is a substance that is recommended by its manufacturer for application to the skin or mucous membrane of a patient to deactivate or prevent the growth of micro-organisms to a level that may cause clinical infection

Asepsis: ‘Freedom from infection or infectious (pathogenic) material'

Aseptic Non Touch Technique (ANTT): A practice framework for aseptic technique

Aseptic technique: An aseptic technique aims to prevent microorganisms on hands, surfaces and equipment from being introduced to susceptible sites. Therefore, unlike sterile techniques, aseptic techniques can be achieved in typical ward and home settings.

Categories of items for patient care: The approach to disinfection and sterilisation of patient-care items and equipment devised by Spaulding over 30 years ago has been retained and refined and is still successfully used by infection control professionals and others when planning methods for disinfection or sterilisation (Rutala & Weber 2008). The system is based on instruments and items for patient care being categorised into critical, semi-critical and non-critical, according to the degree of risk for infection involved in use of the items. 

Clean technique: Clean technique refers to practices that reduce the number of infectious agents, and should be considered the minimum level of infection control for non-invasive patient-care activities. Practices include:  personal hygiene, particularly hand hygiene, to reduce the number of infectious agents on the skin; use of barriers to reduce transmission of infectious agents (including proper handling and disposal of sharps); environmental cleaning; and reprocessing of equipment between patient uses.

Clinical waste: Waste material that consists wholly or partly of human or animal tissue, blood or body substances, excretions, drugs or other pharmaceutical products, swabs/ dressings, syringes, needles or other sharp instruments.

Contact: The touching of any patient or their immediate surroundings or performing any procedure.

Contact point: The area of direct contact of skin to equipment.

Contact precautions: A set of practices used to prevent transmission of infectious agents that are spread by direct or indirect contact with the patient or the patient’s environment.

Critical items: These items confer a high risk for infection if they are contaminated with any microorganism and must be sterile at the time of use. This includes any objects that enter sterile tissue or the vascular system, because any microbial contamination could transmit disease.

Decontamination: Use of physical or chemical means to remove, inactivate, or destroy pathogens on a surface or item so that they are no longer capable of transmitting infectious particles and the surface or item is rendered safe for handling, use, or disposal.

Detergent solution: A medical-grade detergent product (that is registered as a Class I Medical Device with the TGA and which is intended to be used in the cleaning of surfaces or other medical devices) diluted with water as per manufacturer’s instructions.

Disinfectant: A TGA-registered disinfectant chemical product that is intended for use in disinfection of surfaces or medical devices.

Disinfection: Destruction of pathogenic and other kinds of microorganisms by physical or chemical means.

Droplet precautions: A set of practices used for patients known or suspected to be infected with agents transmitted by respiratory droplets.

Droplets: Small particles of moisture generated when a person coughs or sneezes, or when water is converted to a fine mist by an aerator or shower head. These particles, intermediate in size between drops and droplet nuclei, can contain infectious microorganisms and tend to quickly settle from the air such that risk of disease transmission is usually limited to persons in close proximity (e.g. at least 1 metre) to the droplet source.

Fit check: A quick check to ensure that the respirator is fitting each time it is put on.

Fit test: A method of ensuring that a P2 mask is fitted correctly and suitable for use by a specific individual.

Hand hygiene: A general term applying to processes aiming to reduce the number of microorganisms on hands. This includes:  application of a waterless antimicrobial agent (e.g. alcohol-based hand rub) to the surface of the hands; and use of soap/solution (plain or antimicrobial) and water (if hands are visibly soiled), followed by patting dry with single-use towels.

Healthcare worker: All people delivering healthcare services, including students and trainees, who have contact with patients or with blood or body substances.

Healthcare-associated infections (HAI): Infections acquired in healthcare facilities (‘nosocomial’ infections) and infections that occur as a result of healthcare interventions (‘iatrogenic’ infections), and which may manifest after people leave the healthcare facility.

High level disinfection: Minimum treatment recommended for reprocessing instruments and devices that cannot be sterilised for use in semi-critical sites.

High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter: An air filter that removes >99.97% of particles > 0.3 microns (the most penetrating particle size) at a specified flow rate of air.

Hospital-grade disinfectant: A TGA-registered disinfectant for surfaces for use in healthcare or healthcare-related applications.

Immunocompromised: Having an immune system that has been impaired by disease or treatment.

Infectious agent: An infectious agent (also called a pathogen or germ) is a biological agent that causes disease or illness to its host. Most infectious agents are microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and prions.
Instrument disinfectant: A TGA-registered disinfectant for medical devices.

Intermediate level disinfection: Minimum treatment recommended for reprocessing instruments and devices for use in non-critical sites, or where there are specific concerns regarding contamination of surfaces with species of mycobacteria (e.g. Mycobacterium tuberculosis). 

Invasive procedure: Entry into tissues, cavities or organs or repair of traumatic injuries.

Key parts: Parts of the procedure equipment or solutions that must remain aseptic throughout clinical procedures, in order to protect the patient from contamination or infection. For example a wound dressing, catheter lubrication, syringe tip, needle etc. In IV therapy, key parts are usually those that come into direct contact with the liquid infusion e.g. needles, syringe tips, exposed central line lumens. 

Key sites: Susceptible open or broken wounds, surgical or intravenous access sites.

Medical device: A device that is intended for use with humans and used in therapeutic processes, being entered onto the ARTG.

Non-critical items: These items come into contact with intact skin but not mucous membranes. Thorough cleaning is sufficient for most non-critical items after each individual use, although either intermediate or low-level disinfection may be appropriate in specific circumstances.

P2 mask (respirator): A particulate filter personal respiratory protection device or P2 mask/respirator is a close fitting mask worn for airborne precautions, which is capable of filtering 0.3μm particles. A P2 mask must comply with AS/NZS 1716: 2009.
Personal protective equipment (PPE): A variety of barriers used alone or in combination to protect mucous membranes, skin, and clothing from contact with infectious agents. PPE includes gloves, masks, respirators, protective eyewear, face shields, and gowns.

Procedure: An act of care for a patient where there is a risk of direct introduction of a pathogen to the patient.

Respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette: A combination of measures designed to minimise the transmission of respiratory pathogens via droplet or airborne routes in healthcare settings.

Routine: Performed as part of usual practice (as opposed to the use of additional measures in specific circumstances e.g. where invasive procedures are conducted or in the event of an outbreak).

Semi-critical Items: These items come into contact mucous membranes or non-intact skin, and should be single use or sterilized after each use. If this is not possible, high-level disinfection is the minimum level of reprocessing that is acceptable.

Sharps: Instruments used in delivering healthcare that can inflict a penetrating injury e.g. needles, lancets and scalpels.

Single-use: Single-use means the medical device is intended to be used on an individual patient during a single procedure and then discarded. It is not intended to be reprocessed and used on another patient. Some single-use devices are marketed as non-sterile which require processing to make them sterile and ready for use. The manufacturer of the device will include appropriate processing instructions to make it ready for use.

Single-use devices  (SUDS): Single-use devices are medical devices that are labelled by the original manufacturer as ‘single use’ and are only intended to be used once.

Standard precautions: Work practices that constitute the first-line approach to infection prevention and control in the healthcare environment. These are recommended for the treatment and care of all patients.

Standard-ANTT: An approach to ANTT used for technically simple aseptic procedures.

Sterile: Free from all living microorganisms; usually described as a probability (e.g. the probability of a surviving microorganism being 1 in 1 million).

Surgical masks: Loose fitting, single-use items that cover the nose and mouth.  These include products labelled as dental, medical procedure, isolation and laser masks.

Transmission-based precautions: Extra work practices in situations where standard precautions alone may be insufficient to prevent infection (e.g. for patients known or suspected to be infected or colonised with infectious agents that may not be contained with standard precautions alone).


National Health & Medical Research Council and the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare. (2010). Australian guidelines for the prevention and control of infection on healthcare

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